It was an enjoyable drive into the Williamsburg, Virginia area along its scenic Colonial Parkway a National Scenic Byway. The Parkway connects the three points of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown making the historic attractions of the area easily accessible.
I stayed at the Williamsburg / Busch Gardens Area KOA which I thought was conveniently located only fifteen minutes away from the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum and private foundation presenting part of a historic district in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 and played a significant role in the American Revolution. The historic area of the colonial capital includes several hundred restored or re-created buildings from the 18th century. Within the Colonial Williamsburg historic area, there are three main thoroughfares and their connecting side streets that provide an atmosphere and daily living of 18th-century Americans. Costumed employees work and dress as people did in the colonial era, sometimes using period grammar and diction. A visit to Colonial Williamsburg begins at its Visitor Center which is a short distance from the main historic district. It is where you buy your tickets or redeem online tickets to Colonial Williamsburg. It is also a convenient place to park as there is limited parking near the historic district and no vehicles allowed within Colonial Williamsburg.
There are also complimentary shuttle buses that run from the Visitor Center and throughout the Historic Area with a number of stops to get you close to the attractions you want to visit as Colonial Williamsburg is quite large to walk around at over 300 acres. There are close to eighty buildings, exhibits, shops, and food and dining to enjoy. I loved my stop for lunch at Chowning’s Tavern that is an 18th-century alehouse featuring period-inspired foods and specialty brews. There authentic Shepherd’s Pye was amazing with stewed lamb and aromatic vegetables topped with smashed colcannon potatoes. I paired that with a Mr. Chowning’s Seasonal Ale for a very enjoyable colonial lunch.
In the late 1920s, the restoration and re-creation of Colonial Williamsburg was championed as a way to celebrate the early history of the United States and it is part-historic project and part-tourist attraction of the Historic Triangle of Virginia. Key figures in the restoration and re-creation of Colonial Williamsburg were Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller along with a host of community leaders, historic and preservation societies, and other community-minded organizations. The Colonial Williamsburg site was once used for conferences by world leaders and heads of state, including U.S. presidents and is designated a National Historic Landmark District.
Some of the notable Colonial Williamsburg sites to see…
The Capitol at Williamsburg, Virginia housed the House of Burgesses of the Colony of Virginia from 1705-1779, when the capital was relocated to Richmond. Two capitol buildings served the colony on the same site: the first from 1705 until its destruction by fire in 1747; the second from 1753 to 1779. The Capitol building that stands now in Colonial Williamsburg is the third Capitol on that site. Reconstructed in the early 1930s as part of the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, this Capitol building is based on documentation of its design and its unique architecture compared to the second Capitol.
The hub of activity in the 18th century, Market Square contains the Courthouse where you can experience colonial justice in the original building and discover how it connects the colonists to their community. Market House is the commercial and social heart of the colony with its open-air market selling in-season fruits and vegetables, a variety of bread for a farm-fresh meal, toys, and housewares. The Magazine constructed in 1715 as storage for the arms and ammunition for the defense of the colony. Just before the Revolution, it was the scene of a famous confrontation between Williamsburg residents and the royal governor, when his soldiers absconded with the colony’s gunpowder.
The Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia. It was also a home for two of Virginia’s post-colonial governors, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson until the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780.
On December 22, 1781, the main building was destroyed by a fire. At the time, it was being used as a hospital for wounded American soldiers following the nearby Siege of Yorktown during the Revolution. The Governor’s Palace was reconstructed in the 1930s on its original site. It is one of the two largest buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, the other being the Capitol.
Not to be missed are the two art museums under one roof located just outside the historic boundary of Colonial Williamsburg. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum with the world’s oldest continually operated museum dedicated to the preservation, collection, and exhibition of American folk art. And the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum dedicated to British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670-1840, including furniture, paintings, silver, ceramics, tools, textiles, glass, maps, and weapons.
This is just a very small taste of what there is to see in Colonial Williamsburg but pace your self as it cannot all be seen in one day. In my visit, I spent several days exploring and felt that I only got an overview of what there was to see and experience. Speaking of experiences, you are going to want to see and hear the rousing sounds of Revolutionary War field music with the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums Corps as they march down Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol to Palace Green. Colonial Williamsburg is truly an emersion into American history and is a must-see destination for every road tripper’s bucket list.